The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a four-year, $3.2 million grant to the University of Texas at El Paso to oversee a multi-university effort to produce more scientists and engineers who can develop new alternative energy sources and ways to increase energy efficiency. Heidi Taboada, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering, is the principal investigator of the BuildinG a Regional Energy and Educational Network (BGREEN) project.

Interdisciplinary teams from UTEP, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas State University-San Marcos, and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM, will work with the USDA and agricultural agencies to prepare students and graduates who can develop efficient renewable energy sources, incorporate biomass conversion, improve feedstock logistics, optimize supply chains and processes, and develop green infrastructure as they enhance the competitiveness of our nation in the global economy. “Demand for professionals with sustainable energy knowledge is increasing as employers need graduates who can better respond to energy challenges in all professional and business contexts,” Taboada says. “This demand also will create green-collar jobs in the industrial sector and in new technology fields and will put our country on track to a sustainable, low-carbon energy future.”

The program will help place student interns and train graduate students at sites in Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, as well as Panama City, Panama. Taboada will work alongside her UTEP colleagues: co-principal investigator Jose Espiritu, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial, manufacturing and systems engineering; William Hargrove, Ph.D., director of the Center for Environmental Resource Management; Salvador Hernandez, Ph.D., and Shane Walker, Ph.D., assistant professors of civil engineering; and Juan Noveron, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry.